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Sleep. 1995 Jul;18(6):463-9.

First-night effect in normal subjects and psychiatric inpatients.

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Foundation for Applied Neuroscience Research in Psychiatry, Centre Hospitalier, Rouffach, France.


The goal of the present study was to evaluate the first-night effect in psychiatric inpatients using large subject samples (n > 30) in order to obtain a good statistical evaluation. Thirty-two normal subjects and 94 psychiatric inpatients (38 depressives and 56 insomniacs) were studied for three consecutive nights in the hospital sleep laboratory. Our results showed clearly that there was a first-night effect in normal subjects, similar to that reported in previously published data, characterized by a longer rapid eye movement (REM) sleep latency (p < 0.05), increased wakefulness (p < 0.01) and total sleep time (p < 0.02) and a decreased sleep efficiency (p < 0.01). REM sleep latency and stage REM in the first third of the night were still altered in the second night. Both clinical groups had a less marked first-night effect than normal subjects, showing alterations only observed in REM sleep (p < 0.01) (decreased REM sleep, longer REM sleep latency, increased REM sleep gravity center). However, the first-night effect was more pronounced in insomniacs than in depressed patients. No statistical differences between the second and third nights' recordings were found in sleep parameters. It is suggested that first-night data should not be simply discarded but could be used in subsequent analyses.

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